Police Car With Lights on in a Driver's Rear-View MirrorIn Virginia, reckless driving is a criminal offense, not a simple traffic infraction. That means the potential penalties you face upon conviction are more in line with other criminal offenses than they are with moving violations such as speeding or failure to yield. Because you are facing criminal charges when you get a ticket for reckless driving, you owe it to yourself to talk to a criminal defense attorney—specifically one who handles traffic offenses. In the Chesapeake area, your best bet is attorney James E. Short. Find out what you could be facing if you are charged with reckless driving and how James Short can help.

When Could You Be Charged With Reckless Driving?

The charge of reckless driving is intentionally open-ended in Virginia. Basically, if a police officer decides you were operating your vehicle in a reckless manner that endangered life, limb, or property, they could upgrade a moving violation to a charge of reckless driving. Reckless is most frequently charged when a driver is going more than 20 mph over the posted speed limit or is exceeding 85 mph. Other infractions that could be charged as reckless include:

  • Driving too fast for weather conditions
  • Passing a stopped school bus
  • Failing to yield to an emergency vehicle
  • Causing an accident
  • Driving a run-down car

Regardless of your alleged infraction, you should take a reckless driving charge very seriously. You wouldn’t hesitate to call a lawyer if you were charged with shoplifting, so why would you delay calling a lawyer after a reckless driving charge? Both crimes carry the same potential penalties.

Reckless Driving Is at Least a Class One Misdemeanor

Reckless driving is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor unless certain additional factors apply. You will be charged with a Class 6 felony if you were driving without a valid operator’s license due to a suspension or revocation for a moving violation or your reckless driving caused the death of another. The penalties you face depend on whether you were charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 6 felony.

  • Jail time. You could be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail for a misdemeanor and up to five years for a felony.
  • Fines. You could be fined up to $2500 for either a misdemeanor or a felony conviction.
  • Points. A reckless driving conviction will put six points on your Virginia DMV record, and they will stay on your record for 11 years. Points affect your insurance rates and could eventually jeopardize your driving privileges. 
  • Criminal record. A reckless driving conviction gives you a criminal record. It will not matter to employers or anyone else running a background check on you that your conviction was for reckless driving and not a more “serious” crime.

In addition to these penalties, you will also have to pay a mandatory minimum fine of $250 if you were using a handheld personal communications device at the time of your infraction.

Additional Impacts of a Conviction

If your livelihood involves driving, a reckless driving conviction could affect your ability to earn a living. Whether you are a commercial driver—long-haul trucker, delivery truck driver, tow truck operator, bus driver, etc.—or drive for a rideshare company to make extra money, you could lose your job with a reckless driving conviction. Even if driving is not your main job, you could be fired for having a criminal conviction or lose your license and have no way of getting to work.

Why You Should Always Fight a Reckless Driving Charge

You owe it to yourself, your family, and your future to fight for the best possible outcome following a reckless driving charge with the help of an experienced defense attorney. In order to get your charges reduced or dismissed, your lawyer will provide evidence that your actions did not rise to the level of recklessness. Evidence could include witnesses, speedometer calibration, and questioning the arresting officer to create reasonable doubt. An attorney can also argue for reduced penalties by presenting a clean driving record or proof that you attended a driver improvement class or completed community service. If you were charged with a Class 6 felony, your attorney will argue for a reduction to a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Trust James E. Short With Your Defense

The options available to you for mitigating a reckless driving charge will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. Do not hesitate to contact James E. Short, PLC, if you are charged with reckless driving in the Virginia Beach area. Fill out our contact form or call our Chesapeake office at 757-410-5042.